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U.S. Forest Service

Plant of the Week

Melampodium leucanthum range map. Melampodium leucanthum range map. USDA PLANTS Database.

Close-up of plains blackfoot just starting to flower. Close-up of plains blackfoot just starting to flower. Photo by Charlie McDonald.

Plains blackfoot growing at the edge of a desert arroyo. Plains blackfoot growing at the edge of a desert arroyo near the Sandia Mountains in central New Mexico. Photo by Charlie McDonald.

Plains Blackfoot (Melampodium leucanthum)

By Charlie McDonald

Plains blackfoot, also called blackfoot daisy, is a low bushy perennial that forms a neat evergreen mound 6-12 inches tall and up to 16 inches across. The leaves have rough hairs and are 1-2 inches long. Each daisy-like flower head has 7-13 white ray flowers and 25-50 yellow disk flowers. It is native to the dry desert slopes, mesas, and high plains of the Southwest in Kansas, Colorado, Texas to Arizona, and northern Mexico. It grows in rocky, gravelly, low fertility, well-drained soils.

This lovely plant has found a place in Western xeriscape gardening. It blooms from spring until frost if moderately watered. One gardener in San Antonio, Texas, gave this testimonial about his experience growing plains blackfoot.

“Tough little guys these are: growing in the poorest and thinnest layer of soil in my yard, thriving with almost a solid layer of limestone beneath them and happily overflowing the street curb onto the hot asphalt with hundreds of blooms even with the temperature at 100 degrees for days (108 for 2 days!). NO plant has survived in this area for very long in the past. They became a little ragged after the 19-degree temperatures this winter and an early spring freeze. I pruned them to about 5 inches and they rebounded like champs.”

You can find sources of plains blackfoot seeds and plants by doing an internet search using the scientific name, Melampodium leucanthum.

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